Let me tell you a story. In July 2004 I flew from Belfast to Manchester on a day trip. I was formally dressed in lightweight clothes and carrying a briefcase. On arrival, I was stopped at the security check; the policeman wanted to see my passport. I showed him my Irish one, which made him suspicious. He asked the purpose of my visit, and I told him I had an appointment at the Swiss Consulate; this made him deeply suspicious. He then ordered me out of the queue. My briefcase was searched and swabbed for drugs. The policeman disappeared into an office for half an hour or so. He returned, and with a very sour face told me I was free to go.
My appointment was part of the process for applying for naturalisation as a Swiss citizen. If you live permanently in Switzerland, you will have to appear before your local commune or Gemeinde, and be questioned about your application. This can involve what sounds like a third-degree level of interrogation. If you make a good impression, and are regarded as ein guter Kerl, a good egg, your application will be approved and forwarded to the Canton, who will then forward it to the Federal government in Bern. If you live abroad you go to the local Consulate for the interview.
The appointment was in the early afternoon, and I prepared for the interview (ordeal?) with a sandwich and a couple of pints in a nearby pub. (The sandwich broke a tooth.)
Arriving punctually, I was met by the Consul and her deputy. I showed them the documents relating to our plans at that time in Switzerland. It soon became very clear that I knew more about Swiss history than they did, and that I had been to Switzerland far more often in the previous few years than they had. So, the interview was very pleasant. At the end, they said they would forward their report to Bern, and that I could expect to wait a year before hearing of any decision. In the written part of the application I had to give the names and towns of people who knew me and could vouch for me; their exact address wasn’t required. I included the name of my brother-in-law, and he was contacted by the authorities. He told me that he’d replied saying, “that nothing would give him greater pleasure than if my application was successful”.
In June 2005 I received a letter confirming that my application had been successful and that the formal certificate would be forwarded on payment of the fee. (Almost every contact with the authorities in Switzerland involves a payment for service.) I sent off for this, and also for a passport and identity card. A little later the passport arrived, showing these details inside:
The time has come to retire my previous identity on Slugger. Ampelmann and the pseudonym have served me well over the years. Rather than this:
You will in future see my real name and an avatar based on this self-portrait:
And like the phoenix, a new identity will be born from the ashes of the old.
Robert Campbell is a retired surgeon.